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Best cheap phones in the US for 2017

Trying to find the best cheap phone, especially in the US, is a herculean task in 2017, as carriers want to lock everyone into contracts even at budget prices. You want to spend less money – not more, right?

That’s why we’ve deployed our knowledge of the best phones under $300 and tested hundreds of cheap phones to rank the best devices. Unlocked, contract free and SIM-free phones are included in the top ten.

The mobile devices on this list certainly won’t be the very best phones in the US, so you won’t find the high-end iPhone 8 Plus or Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus here. 

But every cheap phone here should be just fine for casual use by anyone looking to save some cash on a discounted iOS 11 or Android Oreo device. 

1. Moto G5 Plus

Our favorite cheap phone with a premium new look

Weight: 155g | Dimensions: 150.2 x 74 x 7.7 mm | OS: Android 7 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Chip: Snapdragon 625 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | Battery: 3000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP

Looks and feels like a top-tier phone

Inventive one button navigation

No NFC or MotoMods support

Camera could be better

The Moto G5 Plus is the best cheap phone you can buy right now mostly because it doesn’t look or feel like a budget phone. It has a metal build, a 5.2-inch Full HD screen, a fingerprint sensor, quick charging and 64GB of internal storage with a microSD card reader for expansion.

Supported by all major US carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, the G5 Moto Plus also runs on Android 8.0 Oreo and includes Google Assistant, which we’ve found to be comparable to Siri. It has a Snapdragon 625 CPU, and while it’s not going to be blowing away the benchmarks, it’s powerful enough to play games and multitask. The only features that the more expensive Moto Z2 has that you’ll really be missing are a better camera, VR capabilities and MotoMods. Most people will do just fine with this phone, and it is less than a third of the cost of Motorola’s flagship.

Amazon is offering the Moto G5 at an even deeper discount to Prime members. It’s just $239 with Amazon’s lockscreen ads, or the normal $269 without those ads for everyone else.

Read the full review: Moto G5 Plus

best cheap phone 2016

2. Asus ZenFone V

The best value for Verizon customers

Weight: 147g | Dimensions: 146 x 72.6 x 7.6mm | OS: Android Nougat | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 820 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 23MP | Front camera: 8MP

Impossibly good value

Nice AMOLED display

Verizon exclusive

Questionable durability

The Asus ZenFone V is a budget beast that deserves to fly but is chained down by Verizon exclusivity. Even so, this phone would still feel like a reasonable deal at $400, but it’s only $240.

There’s some much going right for this phone, making it easy to forget about some of the nitpicky detractors. The screen, the camera, the powerful internals and the simple but classy design pull this phone together in a great way, and tacking a $240 price tag on the box makes it a no-brainer. 

Unfortunately, tacking Verizon on the box limits who can buy this phone, but for Verizon customers or those looking for a great budget phone worth switching carriers for, the Asus ZenFone V is worthy. 

Read the full review: Asus ZenFone V

Moto G4

3. iPhone SE

iOS on an incredible budget

Weight: 113g | Dimensions: 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm | OS: iOS 11 | Screen size: 4-inch | Resolution: 1,136 x 640 | CPU: A9 processor | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32/1128GB | Battery: 1,624mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 1.2MP

Unrivaled build quality

Impressively powerful for the price

Might be too small for some

Apple’s return to the four-inch form factor is faithful to the iPhone 5S, but packs a serious punch in the performance department, bringing specs that put in on par with the iPhone 6S.

The fact that you can get this smartphone for under $300 makes it an absolute steal if you’re a loyal iOS user. Sure, it doesn’t come with all of the bells and whistles of a brand new iPhone 8 or iPhone X, but complete with iOS 11, it still holds up with the latest.

Read the full review: iPhone SE

best cheap phone 2016

4. ZTE Blade V8 Pro

One of ZTE’s best is also one of its most affordable

Weight: 185g | Dimensions: 155 x 76 x 9.1mm | OS: Android Marshmallow | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 625 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,140mAh | Rear camera: 13MP + 13MP | Front camera: 8MP

Awesome value

Fully featured, much like a flagship

Not the latest version of Android

Bad bottom-facing speaker

At its core, the Blade V8 Pro offers a lot for the money. It doesn’t wow when compared to flagship but if all you want is a phone to do the basics, you’ll be happy with the Blade. ZTE did a great job balancing price, performance and features.

After using the ZTE Blade V8 Pro for a month, we were impressed at just how little we missed from a flagship phone. Sure, you don’t get the multitasking performance of more powerful smartphones but for a majority of tasks, the Blade V8 Pro is perfectly adequate.

The ZTE Blade V8 Pro is an excellent smartphone for the price. Its bargain bin price gets you good battery life, decent dual-rear cameras and a near-stock Android experience. If you’re okay with having an older version of Android, the Blade V8 Pro is among the smartest choices if you’re in need of a budget smartphone. 

Read the full review: ZTE Blade V8 Pro

best cheap phone 2016

5. Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom

A lot of phone for the money

Weight: 170g | Dimensions: 154.3 x 77 x 7.9mm | OS: Android Marshmallow | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 625 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32/64GB | Battery: 5,000mAh | Rear camera: two cameras, each 12MP | Front camera: 13MP

Killer value

Tremendous battery life

ZenUI not ideal for some

Camera not best-in-class

I’m surprised by the Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom. While I was fairly impressed with its specs and the much-improved design over the original Asus Zenfone Zoom, its direct predecessor, I wasn’t completely sold. That’s mostly because I didn’t know how much it would cost. 

Not only is it cheaper and far better than the Zenfone Zoom, it’s one of the best mid-tier options available. Asus’ ZenUI has improved to the point where it’s no longer a red flag for most users and the value here in terms of spec and design is tough to beat. 

While not perfect in its execution, it’s full of crowd-pleasing features and rocks a pleasing design that defies its price point, coming together as a smart buy for just about anyone.  

Read the full review: Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom

6. Moto E4

Who knew the low-end could be so good?

Dimensions: 144.7 x 72.3 x 9.3mm | OS: Android 7.1.1 | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1,280 x 720 | CPU: 1.3GHz quad-core | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB with microSD storage | Battery: 2,800mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 5MP

Slick design

Fingerprint sensor

Very affordable

Weak performance

Isn’t all-metal in some markets

If you’re looking for a truly affordable device that doesn’t sacrifice too much to meet an attractive price tag, the Moto E4 is still a good option you could take a look at. We particularly liked the slick design, Android Nougat software, fingerprint sensor and the general value of the phone.

There’s still the issue of it only having 16GB of storage and the performance isn’t fantastic, but if you can get over those issues the Moto E4 will be a great phone for you.

Read the full review: Moto E4

best cheap phone 2016

7. Honor 6X

A whole lot of features for not a lot of cash

Weight: 162g | Dimensions: 150.9 x 76.2 x 8.2mm | OS: Android Nougat | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Kirin 655 octa-core | RAM: 3/4GB | Storage: 64GB with microSD storage | Battery: 3,340mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 2MP | Front camera: 8MP

Beautiful, bright display

Strong performance for the price

Questionable user interface

The Honor 6X builds upon the many successes of the 5X: it’s an affordable phone that’s packed full of features that make it one of the best values on the market.

While decidedly lacking that flagship feeling in the hand, in that it’s not hefty or made up of premium materials, the 6X pleases if you can look past it. 

It has a bright, clear display that you can unlock with the rear fingerprint reader. The dual rear-facing cameras provide better results than most phones in its price range.

Honor has cemented itself as one of the world’s best budget phone makers with the Honor 6X.

Read the full review: Honor 6X

best cheap phone 2016

8. Nokia 6

Premium doesn’t have to come at a high cost

Weight: 169g | Dimensions: 154 x 75.8 x 7.8mm | OS: Android Nougat | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 430 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3.000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 8MP

Sturdy, minimalist design

Surprisingly good camera

Slow to charge

General battery performance is not great

If you can stretch to the quite reasonable price tag it’s the Nokia phone we’d recommend you go for, thanks to its large Full HD display, tidy performance and solid camera.

The only real negatives are that the phone isn’t as comfortable to hold as the rounded Nokia 5 and Moto G5 Plus, and we’d have liked the battery life to last a full day on a single charge more comfortably.

Overall then, the Nokia 6 is like a really good, affordable smartphone. It’s got a decent spec sheet and a great design, while the stock Android interface should mean it gets software updates promptly.

Read the full review: Nokia 6

best cheap phone 2016

9. LG Q6

Honey, I shrunk the LG G6

Weight: 149g | Dimensions: 142.5 x 69.3 x 8.1mm | OS: Android Nougat | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 2,160 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 435 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP

Looks like the LG G6, in a good way

FullVision display is great for multimedia

No fingerprint sensor

Rear is scratch-prone

The LG Q6 is the midrange take on the company’s 2017 flagship smartphone, the LG G6. As you can see for yourself, much of the G6’s visual pizazz has made the transition to the more budget-friendly class intact. 

It features the familiar tall aspect ratio, a nearly bezel-free design, and commendable build quality that yields a smooth feeling in the hand. However, given its lower asking price, not every single one of the G6’s finer qualities makes an appearance. 

The plastic back, for example, is prone to scratching. You won’t find a fingerprint sensor here – a feature served up by the sub-$100 Moto E4. Predictably, the Q6’s internal specs are decidedly ho-hum and don’t pack adequate muscle to hustle through some of the more demanding 3D games available on the Google Play Store.

The budget smartphone arena is competitive as ever and the Q6’s downsides are hard to forgive. But, as it’s available for as low as $239 in the US with Amazon supported ads, you’re still getting a whole lot of phone for the cash.

Read the full review: LG Q6

10. Blu R1 Plus

One of the cheapest Android phones we’ve reviewed

Weight: 191g | Dimensions: 153 x 76 x 10.5 mm | OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1,280 | Chip: MediaTek 6737 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP

Extremely inexpensive

Large, 4,000mAh battery

No fingerprint sensor

Doesn’t play 3D games well

If you’re shopping for a cheap phone that isn’t tied up in an annoying contract that’s just slightly more than $150, this is our recommendation as it often gets discounted through Amazon flash sales.

The Blu R1 plus comes in right at $159, and that includes an Android phone with an HD display, metal build and a large 4,000mAh battery. It also has a dual-SIM feature, making it a great phone for travelers, plus it even includes a case and has a passable camera (great in daylight, not so great in low light).

This device is solely for the sub-$200 crowd as it can’t handle 3D games well, has no fingerprint sensor and runs an outdated version of Android. It’s capable of the basics, and gets you an in to Google’s app environment.

Read the full review: Blu Plus R1

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